- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

Washington lawyer Rich Bliss will go for a drive next week that's even tougher than battling rush hour traffic on the Beltway but a lot more satisfying. He and three other drivers will spend somewhere between 50 and 80 hours behind the wheel of a two-seat buggy negotiating 1,754 miles of treacherous Mexican terrain from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas in the Baja 2000, the longest point-to-point off-road race ever run.
Bliss, 56, has been doing this sort of thing since 1987, when he bought his first car over the telephone from Richard Young of Covina, Calif., co-owner of the present vehicle. Bliss estimates he has spent $30,000 preparing for this race, though his sponsor, ADCS Inc., picks up a portion of the tab. But, Bliss says, "it would be unrealistic to expect to win, because some of the professional drivers do this every week [he races two or three times a year], and some of the owners spend $100,000 on a race."
Then why bother? "Look, I deal mostly with ideas, politics and regulation on Capitol Hill, and you never see the results of what you do. But with racing it's all in your hands. When things go well, there's an intense satisfaction you can't get in the paper world or even the dot-com world."
There also is some danger. Bliss, a former Air Force fighter pilot, will be guiding his Class I car with a Mirage chassis and Porsche type 4 engine over all sorts of unforeseen obstacles. Once, he says, a herd of cattle meandered into the way. Another time, some Mexican children dug away part of the course overlooking a bluff, causing Bliss' vehicle and several others to tumble over the side. The general rule is to expect the unexpected, and then some.
Bliss comes by his love for the desert naturally because he grew up in Arizona. Of course, some folks might wonder if he has grown up at all. "Do I sometimes wonder why I ever got started doing this? Sure, every time I race," he says.
Bliss figures he's good for about 20 hours of driving in the Baja 2000. Doing so requires absolute concentration, and he says you start to lose your focus after about eight hours. No wonder. These cars have 230 to 240 horsepower and reach speeds as high as 130 mph on the flats, and on bumpier terrain the idea is not to push too hard and cause a breakdown. "Sheer speed isn't as important as judgment," he says. "You need some intuition, too.
His goal in Baja's unlimited Class I competition is simple: "Just finishing would be a tremendous achievement."
And there's really no reason why he won't. "It's a big challenge," Bliss says, "but I've seen potholes near my office in Georgetown that were worse."

Where's Denzel?
The spotlight continues to focus on Herman Boone, the former football coach at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., whose story is told in the current movie, "Remember the Titans." On Saturday, he was grand marshal of the homecoming ceremonies at North Carolina Central, his alma mater.
Only one problem: Do you suppose a few female students were shocked when they realized that actor Denzel Washington, who plays him in the film, really isn't Herman Boone?

Rerun of '70s show
News item: During a "roast," Earl Weaver gets mad at Jim Palmer.
Commentary: So what else is new?

How's that again?
Here's your dubious sports award of the month: Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand, will give Tiger Woods an honorary doctorate of philosophy later this month. (Note: His mom is Thai.)
In explaining the award, assistant professor Wallee Phattarophas said, "The degree is to honor his talent and excellence in playing golf."
Oh, OK.

Eminently quotable
Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, on why he no longer tries to win games all by himself: "I've learned to play within myself, not do anything crazy unless I have to. If the game gets to a point where it's like, all right, I've got to turn it loose and I've got to make something happen, then I feel like I can do that." …
PGA golfer Curtis Strange, on the role played by Tiger Woods' caddy, Steve Williams: "Don't give him too much credit. I think Tiger could do what he's doing riding a golf cart." …
Memphis University basketball coach John Calipari, who returned to the college ranks after an unsuccessful tenure with the New Jersey Nets, on coaching in the NBA: "If you've got a good group of guys and you're winning, there is no better gig in the world. But if you're losing and you have a few bad seeds, I can't explain to you misery like that." …
Duke basketball star Shane Battier, on the Blue Devils failing to win the NCAA tournament in his first three seasons despite an overall 98-11 record: "I had expectations of four Final Fours and multiple national championships now I'll be happy for one. We live in a generation now, my generation, where everything's about instant gratification."

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